Government spends £260m on e-prescribing

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt commits £260m to e-prescriptions, as part of moves to make the NHS paperless by 2018

The government is to spend £260m on e-prescribing, as part of move to makes the NHS paperless.

The funds will be used to increase the use of technology to stop drugs being prescribed incorrectly in hospitals, with 11 people having died last year as a result of incorrect prescriptions.

However, the idea of e-prescription to improve patient safety was first mooted 10 years ago. The introduction of e-prescriptions later became key objective of the NHS's now-scrapped £12.7bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

The Department for Health was unable to say how much has already been spent on e-prescriptions under the NPfIT.

In 2007, Exchequer secretary to the Treasury Angela Eagle MP told the House of Commons that 42 million electronic prescriptions have been used in a service and was available in 41% of pharmacies and 47% of GP surgeries.

Phil Hurd, director of IM&T at Northamptonshire Teaching Primary Care Trust also claimed that in his trust's area 87% of GP practices were "technically" live with a basic version of the e-prescriptions system. But he later explained that 78% of GP practices were not actually using it yet.

The latest fund will also be used for creating electronic systems, linked to patient records to communicate to each other across hospitals.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “In many places, right now, a paramedic, picking up a frail elderly woman who has had a fall, will not always know she has dementia, because he or she cannot access her notes. Or a doctor is prescribing the wrong drugs, because they don’t know what drugs their patient is already on.”

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